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Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

How much time do you spend consuming information that you have no intention of taking action on or that you don’t care deeply about? For example: the nightly news cycle of local crimes, the endless stream of Facebook and Twitter updates, celebrity gossip, reality TV shows, Buzzfeed articles. The list goes on forever.

In this age of information overload, your life can be filled with irrelevant or unnecessary information in an instant. And here’s the main problem:

After a while, these information sources start to become normal. Pretty soon, you’re logging onto Facebook because of the fear of missing out on “something.” You turn on the news or check CNN, not because you care about a particular topic, but merely out of habit. You watch tonight’s reality TV show because that’s what you always do on Thursdays at 8pm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning and soaking up new information. After all, education is one of the master keys to the universe. And staying up-to-date on important stories can help shape your worldview and make you a good global citizen. But it is becoming dangerously easy to consume low quality information and convince yourself that it’s normal and good, when it isn’t helping you live a better life at all.

Circles of Concern vs. Circles of Control

In Steven Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he covers the difference between Circles of Concern and Circles of Control. Circles of Concern are the things that you often waste time and energy worrying about, but that you have little to no control over. Meanwhile, Circles of Control are the things that you can influence in your daily life.

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As an example, the vast majority of news stories — war and terrorism, the economy and stock prices, celebrity gossip and political scandal — fall squarely in the Circle of Concern. They can easily soak up your time and energy, but you have virtually no control over those events.

Other examples include getting angry about what someone posted on Facebook, worrying about what other people think about you, or wishing your kids would make better choices (a valid wish, but still outside of your control). As you can see in the image below, worrying about Circles of Concern is a hallmark of reactive people, while focusing on Circles of Control is a trait of proactive people.

circle-concern-control
    Graphic by James Clear. (Note: I modeled this image off of the graphics in this article written by Pete at Mr. Money Mustache.)

    Notice that by eliminating or reducing your Circle of Concern, you have more time and energy to put towards your Circle of Control. That means you have more mental space to use for creating art, starting a business, having meaningful conversations, or otherwise contributing to the world around you.

    On the flip side, the heavy barrage of information in our society can easily push most of your time and energy into Circles of Concern if you let it. What about the war? What about the economy? What about the choices of XYZ politician? If you’re constantly surrounded by these topics it’s easy to let them capture your time and energy — even if you realize that you can’t do very much about them.

    When you’re overdosing on information that you can’t act on it’s easy to see why people say things like “it’s a messed up world out there” or “somebody needs to fix it.” Why make an effort when everything seems out of your control?

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    Create Space, So That You Can Create

    Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.
    —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating. It’s better to step into the arena and get your ass handed to you — whether that means starting a business and failing, creating art that is terrible, writing something nobody reads, or taking a risk that is important to you — than it is to passively sit and consume information.

    It’s great to learn new skills, follow story lines that are important to you, and become an engaged and thoughtful citizen, but sadly most consumption doesn’t fall into those categories.

    What Kind of Food is Your Brain Eating

    The problem with most news, gossip, and link-bait titled articles online is that they are filled with surface level information. Your life isn’t better off for reading them and you’re rarely better informed because of them.

    Of course, there are plenty of wonderful sources of information out there. The New York Times has many fantastic writers on various topics. As a personal example, I love learning about medicine and I often read Atul Gawande’s lengthy articles in The New Yorker. But I don’t browse the internet passively and stumble upon his articles. I seek them out with intention and purpose.

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    And that is the main point…

    The world doesn’t need more people who mindlessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.

    What type of food are you feeding your brain? You wouldn’t want to stuff your body with low quality food. Why cram your mind with low quality thoughts?

    So, Where Do You Go From Here?

    Not all news is bad. For example, learning about the latest war can make me grateful to live in a stable society and keep my life in perspective. But if we’re being honest, there is a lot of information that fills our daily lives, clogs our minds, and prevents us from creating, building, sharing, and experiencing more important things.

    Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn’t going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about what you consume and how you consume it.

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    Do you really need social media apps on your phone? Or will you be just fine checking Facebook and Twitter when you get home? Is it necessary to turn on the same news program every night? Are you living a better life because of watching it?

    If something isn’t benefiting you, then eliminate it.

    And if you do care about something like the latest political scandal, then be intentional about getting quality information on that topic. And more importantly, take some action on it. It’s great to be smart, but it’s better to be helpful.

    James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Pierre B. via flickr.com

    More by this author

    James Clear

    James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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    Last Updated on May 28, 2020

    How to Overcome Boredom

    How to Overcome Boredom

    Have you ever been bored? Restless? Fidgety? In need of some inspiration?

    I have a theory on boredom. I believe that the rate of boredom has increased alongside the pace of technology.

    If you think about it, technology has provided us with mobile phones, laptops, Ipads, device after device – all to ultimately fix one problem: boredom.

    What is Boredom?

    We have become a global nation that feeds on entertainment. We associate ‘living’ with ‘doing’. People now do not know how to sit still, and we feel guilty when we are not doing anything. Today, inactivity has become the ultimate sin.

    You might not realize it, but boredom stimulates a form of anxiety and stress. It evokes an emotional state that creates frustration and feeds procrastination.

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    It’s a desire to be ‘doing something’ or to be ‘entertained’ – it’s a desire for sensory stimulation. What it boils down to is a lack of focus.

    If you think about those times when you’re bored, it’s usually because you did not know what to do. So, indecision also plays a big part.

    When we are focused on what’s important to us and what we want to achieve, it’s pretty hard to be bored. So, one answer to boredom is to become focused on what you want.

    Sometimes It’s Good to Be Bored

    If boredom is a desire for sensory stimulation – then what’s the opposite of that? To be content with no stimulation – in other words – to enjoy stillness.

    Sometimes, it’s not boredom itself that causes the frustration but the resistance to doing nothing.

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    Think about it. What would happen if you were to ‘let go’ of the desire to be entertained? You wouldn’t be bored anymore, and you will feel more relaxed!

    In my experience, it’s often the most obvious, simplistic solutions that are the most powerful in life. So, when you’re bored, the easiest way to combat this is to enjoy it.

    It may sound weird but think of ‘boredom’ as a form of ‘relaxation’. It’s a break from the constant stimulation that 21st-century living provides – constant TVs, mobile phones, radios, internet, emails, phone calls, etc.

    Who knows, maybe ‘boredom’ is actually good for us?

    Next time you’re ‘feeling bored’ instead of feeding the frustration by frantically looking for something to do, maybe you can sit back, relax, and savor the feeling of having nothing to do.

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    In this article, I’ll share with you my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom.

    3-Step Strategy to Overcome Boredom

    1. Get Focused

    Instead of chasing sensory stimulation at random, focus on what’s really important to you. Focusing on something important helps prevent boredom because it forces you to utilize your time productively.

    You should ask yourself: what would make good use of your time? What could you be doing that would contribute to your major goals in life?

    Here are a few ideas:

    • Spend some time in quiet contemplation considering what’s important to you.
    • Start that creative project you’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.
    • Brainstorm: think of some ideas for new innovative products or businesses.

    2. Kill Procrastination

    Boredom is useful in some ways because it gives you the energy and time to do things. It is only a problem if you let it. But if you use it to motivate yourself to be productive, then you can more easily overcome boredom.

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    So, the next time you’re bored, why not put this good energy to use by ticking off those things that you have been meaning to get done but have been too busy to finish? This also presents a great time for you to clear your to-do list.

    Here are some ideas:

    • Do some exercise.
    • Read a book.
    • Learn something new.
    • Call a friend.
    • Get creative (draw, paint, sculpt, create music, write).
    • Do a spring cleaning.
    • Wash the car.
    • Renovate the house.
    • Re-arrange the furniture.
    • Write your shopping list.
    • Water the plants.
    • Walk the dog.
    • Sort out your mail & email.
    • De-clutter (clear out that wardrobe).

    3. Enjoy Boredom

    If none of the above solutions work, then you can try a different approach. Don’t give in to boredom and instead choose to enjoy it. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to waste your time being bored. Instead, think of it as your time to relax and re-energize, which will help you be more productive the next time you work.

    Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to be constantly doing things to be productive. In fact, research has shown that people are more productive when they take periods of rest to recharge.[1] Taking breaks once in a while helps boost your performance and can help make you feel more motivated.

    So, take some time to relax. You never know, you might even like it.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to overcome boredom may be difficult at the beginning, but it can be easier if you make use of some techniques. You can start with my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom and work your way from there. So, ready your mind and make use of these tips, and you will be overcoming boredom in no time.

    More Tips on Overcoming Boredom

    Featured photo credit: Johnny Cohen via unsplash.com

    Reference

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